Kojo Sets 1994 Benchmark for Eagles
Former boss of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Anthony Kojo-Williams has set the USA 1994 World Cup team as the benchmark which the present Eagles squad of Coach Sunday Oliseh must attain.
What do you make of the performance of the Super Eagles in the game against Tanzania?
It was a poor display by the team. So boring to watch. They lacked virtually everything, from cohesion to ball sense and positional play. For a footballing nation like Nigeria, it was a very low standard.
What do you attribute the very low standard to?
One truth we have to realise is that it goes beyond the national team. And it is too early to start heaping the blame on Sunday Oliseh. It is the football culture in the country, where you have very poor coaching, poor clubs and poor administration. If the proper technical structures are not put in place, what you saw against Tanzania is what you will regularly get. The player who had the better technical exposure, Carl Ikeme showed it and you could see the difference in a player who was brought up in Europe. The others could not, they did not even meet up with him because they do not have it and I tell you, it will take time for this team to be strong.
The football federation will have to honestly, try and go back to what the national side was like in the early1990s to 1996. They need to go back to where they had more training tours and camping. Our league system is very poor and scouting network is very weak. These make the task all the more cumbersome. It is going to be difficult to meet such standard. And it does not have anything to do with just one coach at the one level but the general system in the country. But if we must get it right, they must meet that standard of the 1994 team. Oliseh was part of that team. He should know what I’m talking about. The national team was very competitive. The foreign-based players battled for places with players at home. And in camp Westerhof treated everybody as equals. There were terrific training sessions at home and on training tours.
There was unity in the team. They worked for each other. They were a family and you saw that in the team, not like the team that went to Brazil last year where Mikel Obi and Osaze were quarreling and divided the team whose coach was also part of the problem. Not all players merited to be in the World Cup and the players knew some of the things that happened and lost respect for their coaches. The USA ’94 squad had discipline. They had character and that squad should be Oliseh’s benchmark as I may put it now. Oliseh should strive to match or even surpass that standard. I know it will be difficult but he should try and you can never tell. But it takes huge planning and my fear is that we lack that planning now.
“One thing that the NFF must realise is that if they cannot better what was done with the 1994 side in terms of preparations, then, I am sorry, we are not going anywhere and that is why we struggled with a team like Tanzania, who were more determined and purposeful , more aggressive but lacked the finishing because of their limited exposure. They could have scored two to three goals but Ikeme saved us and he was the guy who kept us in the game.
He was the star of the game?
Of course. Imagine a goalkeeper winning the man of the match award. It says a lot of the team we paraded. You can’t compare him with the others. That is why I keep saying that we need to inculcate the right football culture in our league, in our players and in our administration. We need to have better coaches, with better abilities and facilities, not the unqualified coaches we pick around, to impact the right technical skills in the players. How can Nigeria be playing such lazy type of football. They could not even run, no power, no pace. They were very lazy, so lackadaisical. They could not even play into space and string passes together but those boys from Tanzania were harassing them.
Is it fair to say that Keshi’s team was better than this team?
I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to draw any comparisons. Keshi’s team was rubbish. If I do that, I will be doing a disservice to the nation. Keshi’s team also did not meet the standard that Nigeria deserved. I am not going to draw any comparisons between Keshi and Oliseh.
Egypt, our rivals for the automatic ticket from the group to play in Gabon 2017, defeated Chad 5-1, all the more, adding pressure on our team.
Of course and they are coming to meet us and we will see the difference. Egypt are technically better. You see all those goals Tanzania could not score against us, the Egyptians will slot them in. It goes beyond all these things we are saying. We need very deep coaching for the players but where are the players? That’s why I said it goes beyond Oliseh. From the football federation down to the clubs and the coaches it should be different from what we have now. If we had a sound youth football culture from the clubs to the national team things will be better and players will graduate from different cadres.
You said it goes beyond calling Oliseh but the Federation President Amaju Pinnick calls him the Pep Guardiola of Africa?
Do we know the laurels Guardiola won before joining Bayern Munich? A man with sterling records. Where are Oliseh’s records? What are they talking about? It is one thing to sit down and give analysis of a match and another thing to manage a team and be successful. That I can make a lot of noise on the technicalities of football does not mean that I will be a good coach. But since it is early it may be wrong to pass judgment on Oliseh now. Let’s see how he takes on the team but it is wrong to call him Guardiola.
The only positive from this team is that we have a technically sound and confident goalkeeper. And he has the presence on the pitch. I haven’t seen a player with such commanding presence in a long time.
That goalkeeper reminded me of what Nigerian footballers were like in 1994, the tall, huge players. The others were washouts, playing without direction and flair. It saddens my heart and I am not going to blame Oliseh. Oliseh is a very good football analyst. Coaching it is different. His first game didn’t tell a good story. The players were not moving well. They were not compact and stayed too far away from each other. That contributed to their poor cohesion that day.